Wednesday, December 16, 2009
I dreamt of too many steps.
Have you ever had the misfortune of a reoccurring dream? I have had a few in my life. The first, and the longest lasting, began when I was only 4 years old. The house I grew up in figured prominently in the dream, so first a little background on the house....
Nestled in a canyon, in the suburbs of Los Angeles, sits a large Spanish house. The house looks quite imposing, with its creamy white stucco, and dueling turrets, welcoming and warning you simultaneously. People were always impressed when they saw my house. It seemed larger than life. The grand oak tree in the front yard seemed small in comparison.The funny part was, the house was not really that big. It was ample enough, but it was not the mansion that outsiders revered it to be. The first thing you notice, when approaching the house, is the set of stairs leading to the front door. You would notice them because there are 28 (rather steep) steps, punctuated by two landings. I grew up in this house, this house with so many steps. They framed the setting for my childhood.
Anyone wanting to enter our mini-castle, had to be willing to confront the stairs. If you were old or achy, it proved to be somewhat challenging. If you were afraid of heights, you might have felt shaky by the time you reached the second landing. These steps, deep red against the swirling white stucco, could feel menacing. As a kid they made me feel both safe and in danger- safe because they provided a sort of barrier to anyone wanting to enter- dangerous because they also kept me trapped, trapped in that house that often was filled with so much sadness.
So, the dream...It always began the same way, in the front yard, at night. In this dream, I would be there, on the grass, playing with my favorite orange truck. I loved that truck. I noticed a hole, there in the grass, perfectly cut out. Always in the same manner, I approached the hole and peered inside, finding a little room of some sort at the bottom of a long ladder. Then, I would see him. The man. The evil man, who would whisper my name- “Erin”- and come climbing up that ladder to reach me. I would turn and run back to the house and face the mountain of stairs.
Up and up the never-ending steps. First landing reached, I turned around and saw him, snickering. This is when I could clearly see him. Tall and thin, with dark dark hair, slicked back, and a rail thin mustache placed amongst his pointy features. Even as a small child, I could tell that his clothing was from some other time, long ago. I felt confused and threatened by his cold stare, his smirk, and the way he seemed to move in slow motion, but with absolute confidence that he would reach me. I can picture it now, 30 years later, vividly, and it still never fails to make my skin crawl with chills.
On to the second landing and finally the front porch. From the porch, I would see our dining room, full of life, filled with my family. They sat there eating, passing food around the large walnut table, oblivious to the scared little girl outside. Rushing to the door, I pounded away and rang the door bell. There was no response. Panicking, I ran back to the window and screamed for help. I would quickly realize that they could not hear me or see me. They are all carrying on without me! I want to be in there, with the warm fire, the hand-painted beams, the curves of the arches linking the entertainment rooms. We had a music room, that was elevated, like a little stage off the living room, where the original owner’s daughter would have recitals. I loved that room. “Let me in,” I would scream.
But instead, I was left in the cold, on the red porch, waiting for the man to come and do whatever it was he was going to do to me. I could look down on the old Oak tree and the sweet smelling Eucalyptus, look down on the neighboring houses and wonder where help was. After what felt like an eternity, he would reach the top there. A grin formed, first at the corners of his mouth, and then, spread across his thin lips. Still moving like he was under water, he inched his way towards me. Just before he reached me, I closed my eyes. Then, I woke up.
This dream would continue for several years, although my age in the dream was frozen. I loved that house but I was haunted in that house. The stairs betrayed me and the stairs kept me trapped, but in some ways, I miss them. They seemed unlike any stairs anywhere. They framed my childhood, for better or worse. They were what held up that big white house. They felt like they had a life of their own.